Interview with Advocate.com
Great interview. Here are a few of the questions. I didn't include all the good stuff, because frankly I want to leave Advocate.com with a few page hits as a tiny thanks for doing this interview.
The Advocate: Let’s start with what’s hot -- why the silence on gay issues? You’ve done only one other interview with the LGBT press. I know people wish they were hearing more from you.
Senator Obama: I don’t think it’s fair to say "silence" on gay issues. The gay press may feel like I’m not giving them enough love. But basically, all press feels that way at all times. Obviously, when you’ve got a limited amount of time, you’ve got so many outlets. We tend not to do a whole bunch of specialized press. We try to do general press for a general readership.
But I haven’t been silent on gay issues. What’s happened is, I speak oftentimes to gay issues to a public general audience. When I spoke at Ebenezer Church for King Day, I talked about the need to get over the homophobia in the African-American community; when I deliver my stump speeches routinely I talk about the way that antigay sentiment is used to divide the country and distract us from issues that we need to be working on, and I include gay constituencies as people that should be treated with full honor and respect as part of the American family.
So I actually have been much more vocal on gay issues to general audiences than any other presidential candidate probably in history. What I probably haven’t done as much as the press would like is to put out as many specialized interviews. But that has more to do with our focus on general press than it does on… I promise you, the African-American press says the same thing.
And Spanish-language [outlets] had the same gripe. Just generally, we have generally tried to speak to broader audiences. That’s all that is.
I think the underlying fear of the gay community is that if you get into office, will LGBT folks be last on the priority list?
I guess my point would be that the fact that I’m raising issues accordant to the LGBT community in a general audience rather than just treating you like a special interest that is sort of off in its own little box -- that, I think, is more indicative of my commitment. Because ultimately what that shows is that I’m not afraid to advocate on your behalf outside of church, so to speak. It’s easy to preach to the choir; what I think is harder is to speak to a broader audience about why these issues are important to all Americans.
Back to “don’t ask, don’t tell” real quick -- you’ve said before you don’t think that’s a heavy lift. Of course, it would be if you had Joint Chiefs who were against repeal. Is that something you’ll look at?
I would never make this a litmus test for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Obviously, there are so many issues that a member of the Joint Chiefs has to deal with, and my paramount obligation is to get the best possible people to keep America safe. But I think there’s increasing recognition within the Armed Forces that this is a counterproductive strategy -- ya know, we’re spending large sums of money to kick highly qualified gays or lesbians out of our military, some of whom possess specialties like Arab-language capabilities that we desperately need. That doesn’t make us more safe, and what I want are members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who are making decisions based on what strengthens our military and what is going to make us safer, not ideology. '